Sunday, 20 April 2008

Thanks Svenny.

It was great to get a comment on this blog, from a fellow Welshman, namely Svenny, whom it appears, has been reading my posts quite often, it cheered me up no end, so I want to say thanks Svenny.

In my return comment, to Svenny, I said I would get my son to show me how to post pictures of my rides in this blog, and I will asap.

The commuting has been a little patchy, this past couple of weeks. My Subway 8 went into Halfords, to have the new riser stem and saddle fitted, and a service under my bikecare plan, trust me I'm no mechanic! I've had nothing but problems with the gearing since. First time I brought it home, on the 8th, I did my commute to work in the evening, for my nightshift, when I should have been in 8th gear it felt like 5th, and so on. It took me alot longer to get to work, and pedalling furiously, I didn't enjoy.

Next day I took the bike back, they said they would check it out for me, but it wouldn' t be ready until, Friday. I picked it up on the way to work Friday, and used it to cycle to work Saturday evening, same thing happened, except the gears felt even lighter. It would have been horrendous, save for the fact I was battling against 30 mph winds, with heavier gusts, so the light gears, weren't so bad, but it meant I'd have to take the bike back, yet again, and I was starting to get annoyed.

I rang Halfords on the Monday morning, to be told, yes I could bring the Subway in, but the mechanic would not be in till Tuesday, I told them I was not prepared to be without the bike for more than a day, and wanted it to be fixed, urgently. They said to bring it in, and they would look at it. I dropped it to them at 11.00 am, and went down Mumbles, in Swansea, with Elizabeth for a walk along the seafront. When I came back one of the lads at Halfords was testriding it, I had a go, and everything seemed A.O.K., so I took it home again.

Tuesday, I had no work, so got up early, to go for a ride down the valley, to Neath. It was a beautiful morning, frosty, but the sun was shining in a very blue sky. The Subway was going well and I was soon at Ynysarwed, where I had a look to see how the canal aquaduct over the river Neath was coming along. To my surprise, I noticed that the gate, formerly locked, had been pulled aside, so I was able to walk under the motorway, on the towpath, alongside the empty canal to the other side, where the aquaduct was being built. Even more surprised I could see no workmen, plant etc., and the aquaduct seemed complete save for no water in the canal itself, a rough dam had been dumped in the canal 200 yards or so, on the other side of the motorway.

It struck me how beautiful the spot was, and quiet too, and yet the motorway was but a few yards, 30 at most, to my right, but I could have sworn that at that moment I was deep in the countryside. A truely idyllic spot, and what's more it will mean me being able to dodge my bete noir of a hill, a little further down the valley, by the "Rock and Fountain" pub.

I cycled on down the valley, following the canal towpath, which was rough and bumpy, while the canal water was very low, causing the years' of accummillated rubbish to be visible at the bottom, a sad sight indeed. Further on down, I met an old chap walking his three dogs, a black labrador, a small terrier, and an old alsatian, which was dragging his hind legs slowly. The old chap said it was due to arthritus and old age, but he wasn't ready to have old Pegasus, the alsatian's name, put to sleep, Pegasus was a really lovely dog, with eyes, that seemed to look straight into you, and he was so friendly, I hope he's able to go on, for alot longer yet.

Arriving at the canal basin, in Aberdulais, I decided to turn back for home, when the gears began to act up, and soon I was back riding in 5th, stuck there, and pedalling alot to make little progress. It is so monotonous in those higher gears, especially if you are not climbing a hill, or battling against a headwind. Anyway, I was back to square one, I was annoyed, and the bike would have to go back once more to Halfords. Eventually I got home, and I rang them straight away.

The bike went in the next day, and I stayed with the mechanic, while he checked it over, it didn't take him 5 minutes to find the problem, a faring for the gear cable was broken, causing the cable to lose tension, he said he'd have it sorted in half an hour. I went for a coffee, and when I returned, it was ready to go, I had a quick test ride, and it seems to have done the trick, and thankfully, it's been O.K., since. My mileage total has not increased by much as a result, up to just over 1100 now.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Enthusiasm flagging?

1st April was my last post, yet I've had some time on my hands since then and now, but I've avoided sitting down and posting to this blog. Why? I think probably it's because my posts are so predictable, at least when it comes to my commuting and leisure cycling, it's the same over and over. Mundane when compared with the bloggers I read, such as mnbicyclecommuter, fatcyclist, up in alaska, and so on. Add to that the fact that I haven't improved my blogging skills, such as including photographs and links to my blog and the picture is very bleak, I have to get up to speed with this medium, so that I can diarise my experiences fully on this blog of mine.

Having said that, I, according to my cyclometer, have passed 1000 miles in total for the year, that's since 7th January this year, when I fitted it to my Subway 8. This week the Subway was in Halfords workshop, being fitted with a raiser stem, a new and hopefully more comfortable saddle, and a service. The raiser stem and the new saddle have greatly improved the comfort factor on the bike for me, but the gears were all wrong i.e., when in 8th, it felt like I was in 5th and so on, consequently I had to take it back for adjustment. The gear problem ruined my ride yesterday, cycling around all the time in 5th is no joke, I felt like and probably looked like a lemon too. But when I think about it, I was still getting some exercise, but the monotony of such a gear made the ride boring, and lacking in purpose.

It's now 15th April, I've been working nights, for the last three days. I had to return the Subway 8 to Halfords for a third time yesterday, when hopefully the mechanic finally got my gears back to normal. Because of the gear problem, I haven't commuted to work for the jast 2 days. Friday I cycled in for the nightshift, but the gears were too light, yet again. Ended cycling all the way in 5th, and back again in the morning, took me the best part of an hour each way, when I do it comfortably in 45 minutes, normally. While in " 5th " gear, I can't get above 12 mph..

I'm off now till Thursday, will go for a ride tomorrow morning, and considering doing my commute on Thursday, even though I have to go to Cardiff on the train. I will park my car in Aberdulais as usual, cycle to POrt Talbot panel, change and then catch the train to Cardiff. Only thing I'm worried about is my change of clothes getting wet.

Anyway, I'll tell you how I get on, later in the week.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Doesn't time fly?

I'm afraid I've been repeatedly putting off writing something for this blog of mine, I rarely get any comments, but I do want to continue with it, if only as a form of diary. When I logged in, I was amazed to see that my last post was so long ago, 10th March to be exact.

What have I done? What has happened between then and now?

I'll have to put my thinking cap on, my memory is dreadful at the best of times, but let me try to recount a few things. If I go for three headings, and I'm thinking out loud here, of say work, leisure and home, perhaps I can jog a few things to pop into my head.

Right work, I'm still having to go, haven't won the lottery to give me the choice not to. My mum always told me that having money doesn't guarantee happiness, my reply was always the same, give me loads of money to find out, then if I didn't like it I could give it away. So I'm still waiting for such an opportunity to come my way.

The prospect of a strike still hangs over us, the company is digging in, and insisting that we accept a 2 year deal, even after resumed talks with our union. On top of that the company has changed our pension plan unilaterally, with no consultation whatsoever, that worries me the most. Locally, in my place of work, Port Talbot power box, management continue to take extreme liberties with our conditions of service, so much so, that I felt the need to write direct to the union leadership, to ask what it was going to do about it. I wrote that letter on the 18th March, had an acknowledgement of it 2 days later, and have heard nothing since, so I'm not happy at all, and am reiterating the thought, what am I paying my subs for?

Under the heading of work, my commuting by bike must be included. I'm pleased to say, that I continue to do my part commute, regularly and have not missed travelling by bike for any of my shifts since my last post. Currently, I'm up to 11 miles each way, and seem to have more energy for commuting than my leisure rides. One of the reasons for this, I believe, could be that I'm under pressure to get to and from work on time, while when I'm out for "a ride", I take it alot easier, looking for excuses to stop etc.. It's a strange one, but I'm basically a lazy type, a psychiatrist would have a field day studying me.

But I digress, getting back to my commuting, I've really enjoyed all my trips, though I've had some proper drenchings, and the winds have been particularly fearsome on a few occasions, always, it seems, blowing head on, to the direction I'm travelling in. The two days that I remember, the winds were at their worst, I recall getting home and not only feeling great, but also proud of myself for slogging it out. Of course there were days that were gloriously sunny, and the ride saw me see some wonderful vistas along the seashore at Aberavon, as well as a fantasic red sky over the Neath valley.

My mileages, compared to most of you other bloggers, appear to be very low, since putting the cyclometer on my bike, I've done a total of 872 miles. I'm not very good at keeping records, so haven't even recorded what date I started with the cyclometer, or separated out my leisure rides, from my commutes. For arguements' sake, I'll settle for 300 miles a month this year, there have been several occasions, when I've forgotten to set up the cyclometer on the bike, especially after unloading the bike off my car, to start my commute by bike. I prefer to take my lights, bags, and the cyclometer off my bike while it travels in the bicycle rack on the car, I've lost one set of lights by leaving them on the bike in that way, I don't want a repeat.

Turning now to leisure time, which is basically my time off work. I try to go for a ride everyday that I'm not in work. Though I have to admit I'm not as successful at this as my commuting. Not many leisure trips stand out in my mind, and I've yet to top my 28 miler I spoke about in my last post. Perhaps it's all too predictable, I cycle down the valley, taking detours up to Pontneathvaughan and around Cwmgwrach before cycling to Resolven, when I'm in the mood I continue down towards Neath. But, and it is a big but, these days, because between Resolven and Neath I have to travel up a hill, just past the Rock and Fountain pub, which I've come to dread. Why I don't know, it's not particularly long, and save for the first 100 yards, not that steep. When I first started cycling, I couldn't manage to get all the way up, as time progressed I got better, till not so long ago, I was completing the climb, half way up in 6th, then the remainder in 4th, but well winded at the top.

I believe there are number of things that play on my mind when attempting to climb this, what has become, a very sgnificant, hill for me, and no doubt the psychiatrist I spoke of earlier, would find alot to fathom from what I'm about to say. The first thing is I feel self-conscious on approach to the hill, when to change gear, first from 8th to 6th, then again from 6th to 4th, as well as being viewed by the occupants of passing cars, who I feel will chuckle at my efforts to attain the top. The second is, I suppose, a form of laziness, in that I don't want to get all sweaty and feel uncomfortable for the remainder of my ride. Now to be kind to myself, part of the answer could be in wearing the right gear i.e., cycle specific clothing, that way I needn't fear getting overly sweaty. The shrink, no doubt, would be required to help me with my self-consciousness.

Meanwhile, the borough council is rebuilding the canal aquaduct over the Neath river, which could, if I'm so inclined, negate the need to climb this hill, in the future. I know it's the coward's way out, but I can't wait, at least I'd have the choice to travel the hill or not.

Which brings me finally to what's been happening at home. I'm still being very successful at dodging doing chores in the house. My bike rides are normally completed by 09.00 each morning, Elizabeth wants loads done in the house, but we always end up going for a walk, along Aberavon seafront, Mumbles, Swansea marina, Llansamlet lake or even around Aberdare. However, I still continue to purchase goods to do something with in the future, latest is a garden shed, delivered today in kit form. I asked a local builder a couple of weeks ago to give me a quote to provide a concrete base, but either he's too busy or thinks the job too small, because he hasn't come back to me with a figure. My neighbour Keith, next door, thinks we should do it ourselves and save some money. As usual, I like the "idea" of doing it myself, (with Keith and Tierloch's help), but I have to have the time i.e., not be called to work, then we have to have the weather on our side, and most difficult of all, all three of us available at the same time.

The new shed is demanded because my current one, built by the aforementioned builder, is bursting at the seams, with 6 bikes and all kinds of other clutter. It's a major job extracting my commuter each day, let alone getting the ladder out, or a garden tool. This new one, yet to have it's base set down, or even constructed, will, I hope, give me room to "work" on my bikes. A novel idea for someone, such as myself, with no machanical skills at all, but I must give it a go. Once it's in situ, I'll be buying or improvising a workstand, to hold the bike while I lube or clean the chain etc.. Which reminds me, I'm still waiting for a phonecall from Halfords, about the riser stem I ordered and paid for 3 weeks ago, not forgetting a new saddle, they were to put away for me when new stock came in.

Why the need for these? I think the problems I've been having with my hands lately is because the handlebars on my commuter, the only bike I ride these days, are too low, while the new saddle, which has a cut out section in the middle will, I hope, cure the discomfort I suffer from in the nether regions, well fingers crossed anyway. But I won't find out until they're on the bike and I'm riding it. I think I'll give Halfords a call now......STILL WAITING FOR IT TO COME INTO STOCK!!! So annoying.

On that note I'll call it a day for now.